Fancy Coffee Friday: Grief is a Community Event

“I sometimes hold it half a sinTo put in words the grief I feel;For words, like Nature, half revealAnd half conceal the Soul within.” (1)

Death is inevitable. As the saying goes, “Nobody gets out of here alive,” and so that is the case with my sister. Once asked by one of our aunts how she got through her schedule with her young boys, her response was, “I can rest when I’m dead.”

At least she had a sense of humor.

She may now be gone, but we, those who are left behind, forget in our grief that our mourning does not belong to us alone. While it is incredibly personal, whether we wail aloud or cry in silence, grieving is a community event. I first realized this with the passing of our dear grand-uncle last year. The line of mourners at the church extended out into the parking lot and benches and a speaker were set up for those who couldn’t fit inside of the church. Just as our uncle made an impact on his community, my sister made an impact on hers.

Her friends and acquaintances stretched across the globe, from Wisconsin to Western Europe, those folks have left messages that have both lifted spirits and brought tears. If it wasn’t for my sister, my husband and I wouldn’t have met our friends from England, horses and dogs needing homes wouldn’t have found them, and our family wouldn’t contain so many “relatives by choice”. That, right there, is a testament to her ability to bring people together, to have them belong.

Death is something our society has gotten away from, hiding it as it were shameful, and been made uncomfortable to confront. My sister was one who faced the reality of death, whether her own or others, with an apparent strength that I hope we can all aspire to. Death also brings together a community to celebrate the life of someone we all knew and loved. Though, if we were going to be completely candid, were she here, she’d tell us that it’s been over a week now and to get on with living our lives, to go do something.

But, she’d also understand that we all grieve loss in our own way. While some will take more time to come to terms with her passing, others will have every appearance of carrying on quickly. We will all, however, find ourselves at some point, caught by a memory that makes us pause and remember fondly a shared moment.

We were sisters, and like many sisters before us, our relationship was frequently contentious. But, despite our differences, we still had plenty of times of laughter, merciless, good-natured teasing, and conversations that stretched into hours.

So, as the community gathers to mourn the loss of my sister for who she was to them and our futures without her, let us all remember that her memorial is her last gift to those she knew by doing something she did very well: bringing people together.

Daylilies from my front yard this morning. Lilies, all kinds, were my sister's favorite flowers.

Daylilies from my front yard this morning. Lilies, all kinds, were my sister’s favorite flowers.

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday, Personal | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Out of the Woodwork

This past Tuesday, my sister died. She was 34; in fact, she had just turned 34 on the 8th. It hurts to type that out even though I have spent most of yesterday laughing about memories of her and over what a fucking 3-ring circus it is to die.

Like a lot of sisters, our relationship was a mishmash of some good times and years of silence, or at least strained conversation. There were assumptions made on many subjects on both our parts and it wasn’t until this last year that she called me about her eldest and that led to her just talking. And for once, wisdom took hold of me and I sat and listened to her for the better part of two hours.

We’d both been wrong, about a lot of things, and both very, very, VERY, stubborn.

We began to talk regularly. She asked me for advice on the kids – yes, me, the one who does not have biological kids. (Her eldest two are Mr’s and my “vicarious osmosis children” – people mistake them for ours when they’re with us – and we could pass for their parents on looks alone.) We could laugh and appreciate each other’s nuances even if we didn’t always agree.

Now. She’s gone.

And, here’s the thing. She always said she would die young. Why, you ask? Because she was diagnosed with Ventricular Tachycardia shortly after I was diagnosed with my own heart issues, but her’s were ultimately not fixable. So, as an 18 yr old with a baby, she was undergoing heart procedures at Mayo clinic and Mr Muse and I were watching her eldest who has grown into a young man that we love dearly. She had at least three more procedures, but by then it was discovered she’d had at least three minor heart attacks, and the location that needed to be ablated in her heart was in a location that would kill her if the surgeons tried.

So, she said that she knew she would die young.

I never saw her cry about it, though she could have in private. She accepted it. She laughed about how I had “gotten the EASY problem”, and then we laughed later on, after my initial heart trouble was fixed and I developed the same VT that she had after a case of pneumonia. But I have always felt that I’d live to see 100.

So, this week, when she died while working one of her horses, who loved her as much as she loved him, her prophecy was fulfilled.

Now, I’m not good at being vulnerable; I don’t like to be, and she didn’t either. I think it’s a family characteristic: stoicism. Buck up, stand up, and carry on.

But, strange times call for unusual behaviors – I had to “expose” myself. Modern times makes it easy for using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out, and so I posted an announcement of her passing. I made myself vulnerable.

Much to my surprise, messages poured in. I was at the office and after breaking down at least half a dozen times because people there kept asking me how I was doing, I broke down with each new message of condolence, support, and memories of who she was to people. Folks I thought didn’t really pay attention were sending messages of sympathy and inquiries how I and everyone else were doing. Old friends and family I seldom talked to were, as the saying goes, “coming out of the woodwork”. Thankfully, I’d drank some extra water the day before so I didn’t dehydrate from all of the ugly crying and snotty nose blowing.

But what struck me is on the same day I was seeing other people post how if you’re important to someone, you’ll make time for them. These messages were always accompanied with rants of how “people never call/stop by, so I’m cutting them off and out of my life!” But, that’s so final when life is far more busy and complicated now than it used to be. Everyone you know doesn’t live within 10 miles of you anymore – they stretch across the globe in different time zones. And just because they rarely call or stop at the house, doesn’t mean they aren’t listening, don’t care, or won’t be there for you when you need it most.

-Old friends from high school sent messages and called me.
-Cousins sent messages and texts.
-Friends who I’ve made through the years, though I didn’t know how close the friendships were, all left notes.

And slowly, the stoic “I’m fine” turned to “This really sucks”. The walls holding back my vulnerability cracked a bit and in the wisdom that I hope I’m gaining with age, I allowed myself to be “exposed” to these people who did care.

I sent a group email to Mr’s and my closest friends, asking for help with the animals at Chez Muse should we need to be gone, and though we were pretty sure at least one would be willing, they all sent in a “whatever you need”.

This week has been interesting. And surreal. And laughable. And frustrating. And scary. But, ultimately, it has been eye-opening. Not only has a new chapter opened up for us as a family, but I think I gained a few points on the old Wisdom-o-meter. I also realized that far more people than I imagined care about me.

The people who care about you will be there for you when you need it most. You might not hear from them for months, or even years at a time, but they will be there.

So, to those who were there, are here – thank you. Thank you for showing me that it’s okay to be vulnerable, even if I don’t like it one single bit, because you’ll be there and it’s okay to have people see your vulnerable, human, self.

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: At a Loss

I woke up this morning in a good mood. I went about my day off in the usual way, made breakfast, sat down at the dining table to eat it and flipped open the laptop. I started to see posts on Facebook that were rather somber in tone but without much context, and then I saw the news about Dallas.

After the shootings in Baton Rouge, LA, and St. Paul, MN, and now the mass killings in Dallas, TX, I’m even more at a loss than I was yesterday. I know that the USA has problems, every country does, but why is it that we Usonians can’t seem to get past skin color? Why are we so set on causing harm to each other?

So, I don’t know what to do or to say. I see all of the anger from the black and brown communities and I can say that as a white person, as much as I can sympathize – I feel like my opinions aren’t wanted and are not valid because I’m white. But, I believe the anger is justified and changes must happen across the board.

I see many messages saying that the white community will never understand because of the fact that we are white. I can’t speak for the whole white community, but, I presently do not understand from direct experience. But, I do want to understand as much as I can as well as know what I can do to be a part of the solution. I think I’m accurate in saying that many people in the white community feel the same way.

I hope that cooler heads will prevail and the horrible events of this week, let alone the last year (and more) will not cause this country to descend further into chaos. Because chaos begets chaos.

Until then, I will listen to those directly affected for their ideas and solutions to end systemic racism and profiling.

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: NORTH! To Alaska!

Hello Dear Readers,

If you tuned in last week, you witnessed my re-emergence from the cocoon that is my life after having traveled and returned from Alaska-come-Seattle, WA. Aren’t YOU lucky!

This week’s episode shall feature me droning on seemingly-endlessly about my trip (with Mr. Muse) with a brief slideshow at the end.  Seriously, let me spare you – I’ll get to the long and short of things.

Seattle:
-Lots to see, lots to do, so many great places to eat/drink.
-Highlight: Boeing Plant. No really. No lies. Also, I couldn’t take photos there. Unless it was at the visitors center and why aren’t you following me on Instagram yet with Cendric the Roaming Gnome?

Alaska: We stopped in Juneau, Glacier Bay (all-day cruise), Sitka, and Ketchikan. The last three were my favs. Juneau was a “cruise port” through-and-through.

What would I do again?
Go back to Seattle – because:
-MORE hiking at Rainier National Park
-Hiking at Olympia National Park
-More things to see in Seattle

Juneau, because:
-At least one overnight so we could hike ALL the trails at Mendenhall Glacier

Sitka and Ketchikan:
-So much to see hiking, so many places to kayak, so much!

Victoria, BC, Canada:
-Honestly, we hit a storm, got there late, and saw the port at dusk. There is a lot I’d like to see, but it may take a separate trip.

Favs?
Lola. No really. OCTOPUS for breakfast! Mr and our friend, Tall, Dark and Swedish said that their pancakes were the BEST EVER. They really did talk about them all week and then Mr. emailed a photo of them to Tall, Dark, and Swedish on the end of the trip. The guys are cruel like that. PS – the pancakes were full of delicious gluten, so I didn’t get to try them.

Boeing. Seriously. It’s AMAZING!

Snorkeling in Sitka.

Kayaking in Ketchikan.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Sometimes you need to take a break

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve not posted anything in well over a month… maybe closing in on two months. I didn’t check and it doesn’t matter, because it’s been a while. It was becoming increasingly apparent that I needed to be on my vacation ASAP.

Everything is burning down around me. Keep my cool. Okay. Okay, fine. It's fine. via www.giphy.com

Everything is burning down around me. Keep my cool? Okay. Okay, fine. It’s fine.
via http://www.giphy.com

I get it, everyone’s lives are operating on high. We’re all “busy”, so all of my busy is different from other people’s busy and we’re all busy together, but separately. All my busy was building up exponentially and I was feeling the breaking down, plus all the stress eating and drinking. So, step away from the fridge and the bottles Sarah, because YOU honey-pie need to just get away from it all!

Yep. Everything is great. It's good. Nothing to see here. via myautisticpov.com

Yep. Everything is great. It’s good. Nothing to see here.
via myautisticpov.com

In brief, Mr. Muse and I headed to Alaska via Seattle, WA, for over two weeks. We took the Amtrak’s Empire Builder from here to Seattle, because – nothing like forced relaxation on a train for two days before your actual vacation! No, really. It was a very good idea to having nothing more to do than to look out the windows of the train for two days, eat, sleep, and maybe read a little.

Once we arrived in Seattle we did all-the-things, well, as much as we could do in the three two and half days we had before boarding the ms Westerdam to Alaska. It was then onto the ship for a week, where again, we relaxed (we bought the Hydro Pool Spa Package – we REALLY relaxed), enjoyed experiencing new places and adventures, ate some food, drank some wine (though in reasonable quantities for a change), and basically looked out the windows of the ship at the passing scenery. It was then back to Seattle where our friends departed via plane, and Mr. Muse and I stayed on for three more days, doing more of all-the-things before getting on the Empire Builder and heading back to Wisconsin. Two more days of forced relaxation was a great thing. Of course, if you’ve ever gone on vacation, you’re aware that you’re usually worn out from doing all-the-things.

postvacation

But really, it was good. The house was still standing, the animals were all still alive (thanks to dad and pet sitter coming to give cat fluids). Sure, the house needed cleaning, the yard needed mowing, and the garden needed to be attended to, but I knew that’d be the case before we left. And still I was relaxed.

Yep. Totally relaxed. via madewithloveskincare.com

Yep. Totally relaxed.
via madewithloveskincare.com

I took things easy. I cleaned the house. The post-vacation pile of laundry was tackled. The lawn got mowed. The garden was tended.

Bonus – my clothes fit better. Seriously. I didn’t GAIN weight on a cruise. HA!

And work?

Back at it and better than ever!

Back at it and better than ever!

But, what you really want to know is… my writing. Well,

I want to write. I should write. Um, shit. What am I going to write about? via blog.nathanbransford.com

I want to write. I should write. Um, shit. What am I going to write about?
via blog.nathanbransford.com

I’ll write more about the vacation later!

Happy Friday!

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Thinking About Thinking

I’m still alive and kicking. Life has been hectic and every good intention of writing an in-depth post has been usurped by having to do this, that, or the other. So, mostly I’ve just been thinking about thinking.

Stay tuned, real writing will be coming.

via memeblender.com

via memeblender.com

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Discharge Instructions

I know that I’m taking a major chance that I’m not going to have all the internet perverts finding this one in their Google searches, so, let me just clear the air and say: this post is not about that kind of discharging.

This is not the post you’re looking for. Move along. Move along.

Now that I can get down to business… Much to the delight, or perhaps chagrin… probably more like exasperation, of those near and dear to me, I’m accident prone. I won’t bore you all with the long list of concussions, breaks, cuts, slashes, and nearly-chopped-off bits, in lieu of regaling you with the saga of my latest injury. Why? Because scars have the best stories, of course!

Picture it, a freezing cold, lousy-“Smarch”-morning in Wisconsin and I new I needed to check the goats water tank as we went from 80-degree temps down to freezing in a matter of a day. My footwear of choice for chore-duty are my rubber barn boots, effective at keeping my feet clean and dry; not, however, great at protecting piggies.

There I was before the water tank, a layer of ice had formed on the surface and I thought, “It doesn’t look that thick. A good kick outta break it up.”

So, I kicked it. The first time I kicked it my aim was off and my instep slide to the side and I caught my ankle on the tank and thought, “Damn, that’ll be a bruise.” The second time I kicked it, I nailed it straight on, heard a snap in piggie number two on the right foot which felt like hitting the funny bone on something, and I thought, “Well shit! THAT hurt!” So, I decided to turn around and give that tank one good “mule kick”. The ice broke up, I was satisfied, and I went about my day with a sore ankle and toe. No big whoop.

It's cool. We're cool. I meant to do that. via cuteoverload.com

It’s cool. We’re cool. I meant to do that.
via cuteoverload.com

Weeks passed and the ankle healed up right away, but my toe give me reason to twitch once in awhile, like stepping on the trash can pedal to throw something away. But, I was walking, running, and hiking on the foot just fine. No muss, no fuss.

Then, this last Sunday I got into bed and my toe was throbbing. On a pain scale of 1 to 10 this was at least a 9, I wasn’t crying yet, but I certainly wasn’t sleeping well at all. Upon waking from what little amount of sleep I did get, I found my toe swollen and red. I racked my brain to figure out what I could have done on Sunday to make my toe hurt so much. Then I remembered kicking the tank weeks ago. Damn. Had I broken my toe and it was just NOW getting angry? I buddy-taped the offended two to it’s neighbor with the intent to call my doctor that day and then immediately forgot to call the doctor.

Tuesday came and the toe was still all swelled up, red, and angry and I called right away to get in. I was told to go to Urgent Care, where they’d made me an appointment, and with minimal waiting to get seen, I was in an exam room and talking to a doctor who looks like Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods.

My poor toe was pinched, poked, and prodded. I gripped the sides of the exam table and was asked where I’d rate the pain on the pain scale. And after a few more pokes, prods, and questioning, I was sent to X-Ray.

I love X-rays! via funnyjunk.com

I love X-rays!
via funnyjunk.com

I love X-rays; I have since I worked at a vet clinic. So, after taking shots of my foot and toe from a variety of angles, including some toe yoga just to get the angry toe in view, I was whisked back to the exam room where I played Dots on my phone as I wanted for the doctor to come back.

He swept into the room with a look on his face that told me, A) he was perplexed, and B) this was going to take longer than I had hoped. One of the X-rays was pulled up and as I looked intently at my skeleton foot, the doctor pointed to a translucent area on top of my toe. The radiologist, and he, didn’t know what it was, but they suspected something called “periosteal reaction”.

In other words – I HAD broken my toe, but it was so slight that I didn’t notice it – however, the new bone growth that happens with breaks was irritating the tissue around it. Awesome!

Then I was sent back to X-ray. They wanted another shot of just that toe again and this time, the radiology tech, radiologist, and I went all MacGyver on my foot. I was pulling my big toe one way with my left hand while we’d strapped clear tape around the three small toes that didn’t need to be in the shot so I could pull them out of the way in the opposite direction. For good measure, a tongue depressor was  wedged between toes two and three to further isolate it from the others. This was all hilariously painful, because who knew trying to get an image of a toe would involve so much equipment and involve that much laughing! Also, it hurt.

5819811+_c04a23fe336c8ffc80699a6978e6d3c3

Once more back into the exam room, I resumed my Dots playing until the doctor came in and said that the second image has them convinced that I had a periosteal reaction happening. I was going to need an orthopedic shoe to immobilize my toe as much as possible (buddy taping only made the toe more angry). It was the shoe or crutches, so… shoe please. Then I was told to stay off the foot as much as possible, ice the toe, pop some ibuprofen, and have it rechecked in a few weeks.

Great. How do I stay off of my foot for 4 weeks? I’m a terrible patient!

Then I saw what the actual discharge instructions said: don’t do any activities that hurt.

Nothing about staying off the foot entirely. So, look out Sunday – cause we’re hiking again!

Ta DAH! via ourmountainhearth.com

Ta DAH!
via ourmountainhearth.com

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday, Personal, Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments